The 76ers are down and likely out.
After falling to the Boston Celtics 101-98 in overtime Saturday night at the Wells Fargo Center, the Sixers find themselves in a 3-0 hole in the best-of-seven Eastern Conference semifinals.
In the history of best-of-seven series, a team down 3-0 is 0-129. That’s zero wins in 129 career series.
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The odds aren’t good of advancing to the Eastern Conference Finals if you’re a Sixers fan.
Defeating the Miami Heat in five games gave the Sixers some hope they could make a deep run in the playoffs. This group has shown they’re not ready through the first three games against the Celtics.
The young players aren’t ready. The veterans aren’t ready. The coaching staff isn’t ready.
This shouldn’t be shocking news. An NBA championship couldn’t possibly have been expected this season even when the Sixers won their final 16 regular season games and took down the overmatched Heat in five games.
Joel Embiid had 22 points and 19 rebounds while Ben Simmons added 16 points, eight assists and eight rebounds. When the game mattered most down the stretch and in overtime, key turnovers hurt this young group.
In the aftermath of the loss – even the confetti machine was blasted early — head coach Brett Brown refused to blame this series on youth.
“The last thing I want to do is lean on youth, I don’t want to do that,” Brown told reporters on the podium post-game. “I give credit to the Boston Celtics, they played in the Eastern Conference championship last year with a handful of the players they have. We are navigating through this, this isn’t an entirely youthful thing at all. This is some of the match-ups that have hurt us. I respect their positional defensive athleticism and switchable people. That’s the story, I definitely do not think it’s the youth.
“I think when the lights go out like I will think in many ways, Joel is going to learn a lot,” Brown added. “Ben Simmons is going to learn a lot, but there is some truth to that now. There is a lot of truth to that.”
The Sixers’ veterans — Ersan Ilyasova, Marco Belinelli and JJ Redick, among others — struggled in key moments of Game Three. Redick had a crucial turnover. Ilyasova and Belinelli didn’t seem in sync as much as they have been.
The entire team was not in the type of playoff mode they needed to be in a huge game at home.
“I don’t like blaming it on youth, we made mistakes,” Embiid said. “It doesn’t matter how old we are, it doesn’t matter that we’ve never been in this position. You have to give them a lot of credit, that they showed up when it was the time to show up. You have to give them a lot of credit. I hate to say it was youth.”
The Celtics have plenty of youth, most notably Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown. Tatum has scored 20 or more points in five consecutive playoff games, passing Larry Bird for the most consecutive 20-point playoff games by a rookie in franchise history.
Plain and simple, the Celtics are playing better team basketball. And making fewer mistakes.